June 15, 2024

Generative Remove with Adobe Lightroom

Remove annoying distractions with the Beta Generative Remove tool in Adobe Lightroom

As well as running photography workshops, I am a working full-time photographer. I’m so lucky that I enjoy taking photos and that people pay me for doing something I love. What my clients don’t see is the post-production part of photography, and let me tell you a bit of a secret. I hate editing pictures! That doesn’t mean I do a bad job when I am editing my work; it just means that I spend as little time as possible whilst getting great results.

My main editing tool is Adobe Lightroom. When I’m shooting press editorial images, I can do all the editing I need inside Lightroom. Press photographers can only use basic tools such as highlights, shadows, contrast, et cetera. We aren’t allowed to remove or add anything in the original picture. However, when working with clients, I am allowed a little more leeway to remove distractions in the pictures.

Until recently, I would usually carry out the basic image adjustments in Lightroom, and then I would dip into Adobe Photoshop to remove any distracting objects. That was until Adobe released its latest update to Lightroom, which includes a beta of a new tool, Generative Remove.

How can I get Generative Remove?

To use this new tool, you must upgrade your Lightroom version to 7.3, or you can also use the same tool in Lightroom Mobile version 9.3. Let’s pop into Lightroom and see how powerful Generative Remove can be.

If you are familiar with Lightroom, then you’ll know that the third button along, just above the Basic section, is the heal tool. Well, it was until you installed the latest version, and it has now been renamed the remove tool. The shortcut stays the same, which is Q.

Inside the Remove tool, we have three separate modes. Remove, heal and clone.

The clone mode does as it says on the tin. Paint over something in your image, and it will drop an exact clone of another part of the image in its place. You can move the clone point around to try and get a clean result.

Heal mode is great for removing things like dust spots or even birds that have strayed into an image. Paint over the thing you’d like to remove, and it does a reasonable job – try and remove anything bigger, and it starts to produce less optimal results.

Using Generative Remove

The new Remove mode is where the magic is. When you have selected the mode, select the Generative AI box, and you are now using the new beta functionality. It uses the Adobe Firefly generative AI model that has been available in Photoshop for a while with the Generative Fill functionality. The difference with the Lightroom use is that it doesn’t need a text prompt to replace objects.

Let’s start with this photograph of the Modern Art Gallery in Edinburgh. There are a couple of people walking along the road. Look a little closer, and you can see a few other people in the image. I will remove them from the shot by painting over them when the Remove tool is selected. Let’s paint over this woman in black first.

You can make the tool cursor bigger or smaller by using the square bracket keys. The left bracket makes the cursor smaller, and the right bracket bigger. Make it just big enough that you can paint over the woman. If it had been a sunny day, then I’d also paint over shadows as well. Try to expand the painted tool by a small amount so the new tool can recognise the object that will be removed. Press the Apply button, and the Generative AI tool will get to work.

I think it has done a pretty good job, but if the replacement isn’t quite right, there are three variations available by clicking on these arrows.

Multiple removes in one pass

We don’t have to do each person individually. We’ll remove the rest of the people in one go. Paint over each of them and then press the Apply button. Clearly, the tool has to do a bit more work, so it takes a bit longer, but eventually, all the people in the image have been removed.

It’s not just people that can be removed. These signs date the image to the date the advertised exhibition was running. Let’s paint over the advertising board, click on Apply, and Lightroom adds a line of shrubbery.

Next up, we’ll edit a food photography image. I made a very delicious Caponata Bake, but unfortunately, for the pictures, I wasn’t as careful as I should have been when putting the Caponata filling in. As a result, there are some spills inside the baking tin. There are also a few more minor spots on the top of the tin.

I will use the Generative AI tool for the larger spills. I’ll speed up the video as it takes a few seconds to apply the changes. The remaining minor spills on the top of the tin can be removed by switching off the Generative AI tool, and you can see the processing is much quicker.

Results you won’t notice

One of the things I like about this new tool is how well it deals with depth of field. This shot of the pigeon sculptures on Leith Walk in Edinburgh would be pretty nice if it weren’t for this chap sitting behind them.

Switch Generative AI back on and paint over the gentleman. It’s done a great job removing him, but look how the depth of field feels natural. I’m also really impressed with how the AI element has identified that the clock should go lower down. That’s so impressive!

I recently photographed a wedding, and the group shot was taken from a first-floor window. The first shot I did was quite formal, with all the guests looking up. I then dropped the camera for a few seconds to get the guests to a big cheer for the happy couple. In these few seconds, this couple decided to run across the back of the shot to get to the lower-level garden.

That’s no problem for Generative AI. Again, paint over the couple and click on Apply. A few seconds later, we have a perfectly clean background. What a time saver!

Could it be magic?

I’ll finish with this final shot I took at the back of the Scottish Parliament. It would be nice if this man weren’t leaning against the wall. The thing is, I know that this block has space on the left side to allow walkers and cyclists to pass it on either side. You can’t see it in the image. As usual, paint over the guy in the shot and press Apply.

This truly is magic! I don’t know how on earth the Generative AI model does it, but somehow, it has identified that a gap should exist. I can’t tell the difference between this edited version and real life.

Let’s remember that this is a beta version. Adobe has been happy enough to include it as early access in the production version of Lightroom. This technology is just going to get better in the coming months. It’s getting to the point where my dips into Photoshop are going to be few and far between for purely image editing.